Claiming Clan MacLeod

One of the great things about being an American is that you’re part of a melting pot. And that goes for my own ethnic background. While mostly Slavic, I have bits of Irish and Scottish in me too.

On my great grandmother’s side we’re called Beaton, part of the Clan MacLeod. So as I traveled through Scotland, I was hot to look up my family’s lineage. Here’s what I discovered:

An “Ugly” Family

Clan MacLeod The clan is a descent of Leòd, who lived in the 13th century. (The surname MacLeod means “son of Leod.”)The name Leod is derived from the Old Norse name Ljótr, meaning “ugly.” I’m pretty sure this means my clan is named after an ugly dude named Leod. That’s not cool!

From the Isle of Skye, Clan MacLeod is a Highland Scottish clan with two branches: the MacLeods of Lewis and the MacLeods of Harris. It is thought that Clan MacLeod can trace their genealogy to the Kings of Mann through the female line called “Helga of the beautiful hair.” At least this is something.

Clan Regalia

For me, half the fun of being part of a clan is all the regalia that goes with it. Here’s the short list:

  • Tartan: Gold with black and red plaid.
  • Crest: The crest shows a black bull’s head between two flag poles with red flags. The motto is Hold Fast, which supposedly relates to the occasion when a MacLeod chief wrestled a bull to the ground and the crowd shouted Hold Fast.
  • Fairy Flag: The golden flag has red berries or “elf spots” on it and dates to the 4th or 7th centuries. The flag is currently held in Dunvegan Castle, along with the Dunvegan Cup, a wooden cup with silver, and Sir Rory Mor’s Horn, a drinking horn made of ox horn and tipped in silver dating from the 10th century.
  • Castle: Dunvegan Castle is the official home of Clan MacLeod Chiefs since 1200 AD and one of the oldest inhabited castles in Scotland.
  • Clan Chief: The present Clan chief is Hugh MacLeod, the 30th clan chief. There are currently 9 Clan MacLeod societies located around the world. The U.S. society was open in 1954.

Clan Rivalry

Apparently, there’s a pretty strong clan rivalry between the MacLeods and the MacDonalds. Here’s the story:

Way back in 1580, the MacLeods were in church when the MacDonalds happened upon them. They locked the church doors and burned them alive. One old MacLeod granny escaped and raised the alarm so that all MacDonalds in their party were massacred before they could leave the island. Take that!

Basically, we’re an ugly, ornery clan from the Scottish Highlands that holds grudges and likes to fight. Sounds about right to me!

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 30th, 2012 and is filed under Erin Right Now.

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